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Handy Festival 2011: Rocking the Shoals with Ken Watters and Microwave Dave

Posted: Jul 28, 2011

This week is Handy Fest 2011, and I was in the Shoals on Monday night, sitting in the Zodiac Theatre in downtown Florence, Alabama, with Randy, my sister Peggy, and a friend from California, grooving to the smokin'  jazz of Ken Watters and Friends when Ken made an announcement. It appeared that Scott Silbert was in the audience and Ken invited him up to sit in. For those of you who do not know Scott Silbert, he is a multiple woodwind player and the chief arranger for the U.S. Navy Band, having composed/arranged more than 600 works for all the performing groups of the Navy band. He is a special guest artist for the 2011 W C Handy Festival.

The audience burst into applause as Silbert walked on the stage in a tweed jacket and white shirt, open at the collar, and began to wail on his saxophone as if he had been playing with Ken and Friends for all of his life. The group was sizzling hot with virtuoso Charles Rose on keyboard, Tim Goodwin on acoustic bass, Bill Goodwin on drums and percussion, Tom Wolfe on electric guitar, and of course, our main man Ken Watters on trumpet. When they broke into a jazz rendition of Sammy Fain's "Secret Love," the enthusiastic audience whistled and cheered as each of the multi-talented musicians showcased his considerable expertise. It was "Secret Love" as you have never heard it before.

I am always blown away by Ken Watters and the phenomenal musicians that play with him. I cannot believe how fortunate we are in North Alabama to be surrounded by such incredible talent. (photo of Ken Watters)

Next stop on our Handy Fest magic carpet ride was Crocodile Ed's where my dear friend Dave Gallaher, aka Microwave Dave and the Nukes , was playing on the patio. What is hotter than a summer night in the deep south? It has to be Microwave Dave and the Nukes playing their inimitable foot-stomping, house-rocking blues.

My sister and I both threw our arms around Microwave Dave, and it was the beginning of a veritable love fest. Dave gave Peggy a copy of his latest cd "Last Time I Saw You" which included a Billy C Farlow  tune decked out Microwave Dave style. Dave, with BC's blessing, changed "Tennessee Saturday Night" to "Alabama Saturday Night" and added a few verses of his own. Since Billy C Farlow is my sister's husband, Dave suggested that anyone wishing to have his/her cd signed  might want to get Peggy's autograph as well. What a guy!

I want to add that Dave was playing his cigar box guitar. You can find out more about cigar box guitars by watching the documentary made by my friend Max Shores entitled. Songs Inside the Box. Microwave Dave is featured  in the documentary. (photo  shows Dave with his amazing cigar box guitar)

Dripping with sweat but loving every minute, we rocked the rafters on the patio with "Hey, Bo Diddley,"  We were so vociferous that Dave signaled to the drummer (James Levine) and bass guitarist (Rick Godfrey) to stop momentarily while we screamed wildly our response to the call "Hey, Bo Diddley." I mean you had to be there.

In the middle of the first set I looked up to see my longtime friend and former student R. Garth (Richard to the rest of us) heading toward our table waving a three ring binder containing his latest manuscript, the fourth in a series of quasi-autobiographical horror stories: Tales of Blue Springs (link). I took the MS and assured Richard that I would read it and write a blurb for his latest book, The Freak. The three previous volumes were The Hatchet Woman, The Hook Man, and Animal Man. I kid you not. But don't knock it if you haven't tried it. You can get his books on Amazon.com. Randy has read them all and was well into this last one before we left Crocodile Ed's. (photo of Microwave Dave and Peggy and Richard dancing )

When we got up to leave, some folks who had been sitting a few tables away came up and said "May we have this table? It looks like it is the fun table."

After more hugs and many promises to get together soon on Elk River, we said our good-bys and headed toward home, but not without stopping at Krispy Kreme for a dozen of their original glazed donuts, warm from the oven. It was, one might say, the icing on the cake.

By the way, if you want to sit at the fun table, join Randy and me on Saturday, July 30, for Rocking the Blues and the grand finale concert by the Drive-By Truckers. Long live Handy Fest! 

PS--The cover art (Blue Octopus Woman) for Dave's latest CD "The Last Time I Saw You" is by our very own Beth Norwood. You can hear her daily on WLRH.

----- by Penne J.  Laubenthal


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